Medical cannabis campaigners and millionaire investors have criticised governments for their approach to a so-called ‘wonder drug’.
Clinical trials of medicinal cannabis will soon begin in NSW, but Narrandera medical marijuana advocate Rach Cregan said patients were unwilling to trade an illegal treatment that worked for a legal trial that might not.
“The drug they’re trialling is missing the THC, that’s the essential ingredient that makes a difference,” Ms Cregan said.
“Terminal patients don’t want or need false hope, if they’re getting results with what they’re using, why would they change?
“Anyone who’s done the research can see where this trial is flawed, the government had the potential to take control of the black market but instead it’s backfired on the people who need it the most.”
On Thursday, NSW Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward announced clinical trials for up to 250 patients would begin in January. However, campaigners have called it a small step in a slow and cumbersome process that ignored the urgent needs of patients.
High-profile campaigner Lucy Haslam, who gave her son medicinal cannabis until he died from bowel cancer, said a more compassionate approach would be helpful.
“I’m frustrated with how long this is taking, it’s not really looking after the patients at all,” Mrs Haslam said.
“The lack of humanity is shameful, if you let an animal suffer like this you’d be dragged over hot coals.
“I’m contacted every day by people whose loved ones are going through hell and the fact that cannabis is still part of this ‘war on drugs’ is ridiculous.”
Proponents of medicinal cannabis point to a man named Rick Simpson, who claimed to cure himself of cancer with ‘hemp oil’ in 2003, for proof of the drug’s healing properties. Mr Simpson allegedly found THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis, to be a miracle cure for cancer.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley, who unveiled the Australian Advisory Council on the Medicinal Use of Cannabis on Thursday, said she believed in the product but not every doctor did, so she wanted to make sure medicinal cannabis went through the same drug testing process as any other drug.
“Testing for the Therapeutic Goods Administration is massive and intense, it takes years,” Ms Ley said.
“It’s appropriate to do it as quickly as possible but there’s always the special access scheme for terminally ill patients with no hope for treatment.
“We want to see doctors be the centre of care for this drug.”
Earlier this month Australia’s largest medicinal cannabis grower, backed by BRW rich-lister Barry Lambert, decided to move to the US because of tight legal restrictions.
Mr Lambert made headlines last year when he gave $34 million to Sydney University for research into medicinal cannabis, but he said a federal law that was supposed to legalise medicinal cannabis had so many restrictions that it was practically unworkable.
“We have an Australian company, Australian seeds, Australian shareholders, but we have to go to America because of the legislation,” Mr Lambert said.
“It is driving people to the black market.”
At the moment no state governments have fully legalised use of medicinal cannabis, although the NSW government’s clinical trials could open the way for certain approved drugs. However, because of Australia's tight laws the cannabis used in the NSW trials on humans has to be imported from Canada and the Netherlands.
The product used in the trial has been produced and supplied by Netherlands-based medicinal cannabis company Bedrocan BV.